Apple gives ageing Macs and iPad Pro updates at New York event

Apple refreshed some of its older products at an event in New York today, adding iPhone features like facial recognition to the iPad Pro and faster processors and better displays to some Mac computers that have not had a major update in years.

The company introduced new versions of the iPad Pro, its higher-end tablet that competes with Microsoft Corp’s Surface, with thinner bezels and more screen space, along with the face ID system found on Apple’s newer iPhones. Apple said a new version of the Mac Book Air, originally released in 2011, would feature a higher-resolution display and thinner bezels and start at £1,199.

It also announced that the Mac mini, a small desktop computer which customers provide their own display and accessories for, would feature more processing power and memory, and start at £799. Apple introduced new iPhones and Apple Watches last month, but the older product lines accounted for $45bn in sales in the most recent fiscal quarter. In comparison, iPhones brought in revenue of $141.3 bn. “They really wanted to show the world they haven’t forgotten about the iPad and the Mac,” said Mika Kitagawa, a senior principal research analyst at Gartner.

In July, when Apple reported its most recent quarter, the company had its worst quarter of Mac sales since 2010, with unit volumes down 13% over the year, and iPad unit sales were up only 1%. Revenue for both was down 5 percent from the prior year.

But some of that dip in Mac sales was explained by timing; Apple waited to release new Macs until July, when it had in previous years offered them in June. More broadly, Mac sales growth has outpaced the PC market and the iPad has been the most successful tablet in a market that turned out to be smaller than Apple hoped when it released the device in 2010.

While Apple has held prices down on some items like its entry-level iPads for schools, analyst had widely expected it to hold or raise prices for its new laptops and desktop.

With Mac laptops in particular, consumers increasingly use phones or tablets for quick tasks and only turn to a full-fledged computer when they need extra power. Apple is unlikely to cut corners to drop the price of its entry-level laptops, analysts had said.

“With Apple, ‘cheap’ is always more expensive than everybody else,” said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Creative Strategies. Apple is likely to pick a price where “you don’t feel like you’re breaking the bank, but you don’t feel like you’re compromising your experience.”

The new MacBook Air features a Retina display, Touch ID, and an 8th generation Intel Core i5 processor, Intel UHD Graphics, and faster 2133 MHz system memory up to 16GB.

The new design of the iPad Pro pushes 11-inch and 12.9-inch Liquid Retina displays to the edges of the device and integrates Face ID. The A12X Bionic chip with “next-generation Neural Engine in iPad Pro outperforms most PC laptops and offers a new USB-C connector, Gigabit-class LTE, and up to 1TB of storage to enable powerful new mobile workflows,” said Apple.

MacStadium hosts nearly 8,000 Mac minis.

The Mac mini now comes with quad and 6-core processors, up to 64GB of faster memory, and all-flash storage.

Introduced as a smaller and more affordable desktop computer by Apple in 2005, the Mac Mini’s power and versatility have made it a favorite of developers and it has been instrumental in creating, powering, and perfecting some of the world’s most popular apps.

“Candy Crush, Shopify, Day One;  so many of your favorite apps and games run on Mac mini. It’s truly the Swiss Army knife of computers,” said Brian Stucki, of MacStadium, which manages nearly 8,000 Mac mini systems in co-location data centres for a wide range of developers.